Iona Morrison is an award-winning, Amazon best-selling author who writes romantic suspense with a touch of the paranormal, including the Blue Cove Mysteries series. She is a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Published Authors League and lives in Colorado with her husband and family.
SunLit: Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the story/theme originate?
Iona Morrison: This book is a part of a series.
The Blue Cove Series began for me on my first day of a new job when the custodian told me, “You know we have a church ghost here.” She went on to tell me a true story about how their associate pastor’s husband murdered her, and then killed himself outside the church. The secretary was the one that found their bodies by a tree.
With that piece of information, I was off and writing, with a cast of characters in an imaginary New England town. And the book I always wanted to write started to grow in me until “The Harvest Club” was born with 11 books to follow. I like to think of myself as proof that it’s never too late to change course and find a new avenue for your ambitions.
“Searching For Closure” is book 9 in the series. The main character, Peyton, is a cousin to Jessie Reynolds in my other books. She is on vacation in Arizona and staying at a beautiful resort when the body of a young man is discovered in the swimming pool. While Detective Kincaid is interviewing her, Peyton sees the young man’s ghost watching her. She soon finds herself involved in the murder investigation and is ushered into a strange new world in the process.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
Like most authors, I never know where or when inspiration will strike. I’ve learned to take the notions when they come and be prepared to write them down. I’m always on the lookout for another idea.
One of those special moments of insight for this book came as I walked through the small tourist town of Tombstone on vacation, I could see my character doing the same. A scene began to take shape as I strolled the wooden boardwalk. Her footsteps sounded on the wood planks of the walkway along with mine as she is carried back in time to see the town as I saw it in my mind: a happening place of long ago filled with music and raucous laughter flowing from the saloon.
Suddenly, a stagecoach comes racing into town followed by several rowdy cowboys on horseback welcoming the woman passenger on the stage. Hooting and hollering, they discharge their guns indiscriminately into the air until a real shot brings Peyton back to reality. That scene worked its way into this book with a few changes.
SunLit: Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?
Morrison: The excerpt places Peyton in Tombstone where for a moment in time she is caught up in a vision that takes place long ago but before she has time to adjust to what she is seeing she finds herself back in modern times and dealing with what she saw. This story is all about Peyton coming to terms with seeing the invisible world and, like her cousin, having the gift of sight.
SunLit present new excerpts from some of the best Colorado authors that not only spin engaging narratives but also illuminate who we are as a community. Read more.
Peyton is thrust into her new world when she sees her first ghost and murder victim. She will see many more new and strange things to help solve that murder. A jaunt back in time, visions, and premonitions are part of the process.
I chose this excerpt because it plays a key role in the story. Peyton visits Tombstone as a tourist and will also find herself a target for murder while there. Personally, I liked the scene. It is one of my favorites. I feel like I lived it with her.
SunLit: Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you actually sat down to write?
Morrison: This book was formed in the one before it. Each book gives me a key word or a way forward to the next one. For example, with this story Peyton told her cousin in the previous book of a crazy trip her friend had arranged for them to Arizona — in the summer no less.
Arizona became the setting for the story, but I had no idea when I wrote that scene how the story would develop into Peyton’s Arizona adventure when her friend was a no-show. A hot Arizona summer was the perfect backdrop for a heinous corporate crime, murder, and a budding new romance.
SunLit: Once you began writing, did the story take you in any unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe dealing with a narrative that seems to have a mind of its own?
Morrison: My writing is often filled with surprises. I’ve had a bad character who turned out to do something good while one of my main characters got shot. I didn’t see either of those coming. I try to let my characters lead me and they take me on quite a ride every time.
I’m not a plotter and therefore I’m often astonished by where my imagination takes me. I like to believe my characters let me know what is and isn’t working for them. And they’re usually right. I’ve stayed awake many nights listening to them tell me about a better way forward. Once I get the scene the way that suits their personalities the narrative moves forward.
SunLit: What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?
Morrison: It’s always a challenge to keep writing and rewriting lines until the story is finished. One day I feel like I can write anything and the next I’m frustrated with everything that I write. By the time a book is finally published I’ve read it so many times I can’t read it again for a while.
However, there is a reason I author the stories that I do. In my own strange way, I answer the question through my characters what would happen if we were aware of what really transpired in the world we rarely see and could hear the unheard cries for help around us. In the process I touch upon subjects that are important to me in a hopefully entertaining way. Topics like organ trafficking, human trafficking, and domestic violence to name a few.
In the excerpt, Peyton asks the question: Is death the end or can those unjustly treated in this life find justice? For her, justice for those who have no voice is important. I’m always surprised how all the pieces in a story tie together in the end even with all the twists and turns. Each time I read a final galley, I’m amazed that I authored the book and even more in awe that people will read it.
SunLit: Has the book raised questions or provoked strong opinions among your readers? How did you address them?
Morrison: People talk to me about what they liked in the story.
One of the best parts of being an author is meeting the readers and talking with them. I’m a talker and love spending time with people. I enjoy answering questions or simply spend time thanking someone for their support.
I’ve been thinking about the phrase ‘throwing in the towel’. Is there a particular towel I need to throw, and if I decide to throw it where should I send it. Does it mean I’m frustrated, giving up, or that the towel is too old? Has the towel done something wrong? Should I give it up on it and simply buy a new one? Is there a line I need to stand in, or can I do this alone? All important questions when thinking of the towel.
Possibly, I could throw it out the window with my computer if frustration is the marker. These questions are right up there for me with does a penguin have knees. Yes, they do thank you very much. Now all I need to do is to figure out which towel I need to throw, if and when I decide to throw it.
Days like this have me wondering where some of our phrases, sayings, and idioms come from. In this case the idiom throwing in the towel comes from boxing. The trainer or manager literally throws in a towel as a signal that their fighter has given up. It means to stop doing something because you cannot succeed or your too exhausted.to continue. Now I’ve learned something new.
I like learning new things. I’ve discovered today the only way I will throw in the towel is if it’s too worn out and not useable anymore. Otherwise, I’ll keep trying like the little engine who could.
The sum of what is important to me always centers around those I love. Family and friends are at the heart of what I value most. My dreams, my job, or even my writing take a back burner to those I care about. Although, writing often becomes a form of therapy for me.
My husband Rob has had my heart since the first day I met him. His smile is what attracted me to him. Doing life with him has been fun and quite a ride. Our story is unique to us like yours is to you with all the highs and lows that life dishes out. Somehow, we’ve managed to stay afloat and love being together. He’s always encouraged me to excel and is my greatest fan. Being able to laugh together has helped more times than I can count. And the fact that he’s a genuinely nice guy hasn’t hurt either. I feel blessed to have such a good man in my life.
The past few years have held a few health challenges for him, and I’ve found myself holding my breath whenever he has his check-ups and then breathing a sigh of relief when we hear good news. A sweet reminder that life is a precious gift not to be taken for granite.
Thankfully in the midst of the choppy seas of life’s events, we are often handed a life raft of sorts, to cling to. Some little encouraging word, or act of kindness that makes a day seem less dark and hard in the storm. I’m grateful for each one I’ve received that brightened an otherwise tough time. Believe me when I say there have been many of those sweet acts over the years. I have done my best to pay them forward whenever I can. I have a firm belief that kindness given comes home again when needed most. And love isn’t really love until you give it away.
Life is fragile and should be treated with care. Each day is a brand-new opportunity to send a kind word to someone else who needs it. A quick note or call to let them know they aren’t forgotten or alone can make all the difference.
This is an article I wrote for Women Writers, Women’s Books. Right now, you can pick up my e-books for 99 cents on Amazon for a limited time. Remember books make great gifts and wonderful stocking stuffers.
By way of a brief introduction, I am a multi-published, award-winning author who writes romantic suspense with a touch of paranormal. I enjoy writing fiction. The character development, their stories, and the twists and turns in the plot intrigue me. Once I let the characters loose, I can’t wait to see where they take me. I’m hooked from the first words on the paper, and I have to keep writing to see how the story ends.
I like to think of myself as proof that it’s never too late to change course and find a new avenue for your ambitions. I came to writing later in my life after working beside my husband for many years and raising our three sons. Our lives had settled into a nice, comfortable routine, until a recession, personal growth, and circumstances, brought several major changes. At that time, I scrambled to reinvent myself and an old desire to author a book began to surface once again. I can reassure you it’s never too late to reach for your dream and an ‘old dog’ can really learn new tricks.
Searching the web, I stumbled upon an ad for a writing class and soon began a class offered through Longridge Writing Institute called Breaking into Print. The course took me through the elements of fiction and non-fiction. I thought for sure I would write a non-fiction self-help book. What I found was that I loved writing fiction. This gal who never watched or read a mystery found herself in a genre where she had never dared to go before. It fit with my personality. The course teacher told me that my stories had legs and he recommended that I try the Novel writing class. I followed his advice.
My initial book, ‘The Harvest Club,’ took shape during the second class. The story idea was handed to me, my first day on a new job by the custodian when she told me. “You know we have a church ghost here.” My imagination went to work and the element of the paranormal seeped into my mystery and would continue through each of my books.
With that piece of information, I was off and writing, with a cast of characters in a New England town. Of course, my series had to have romance which brought in a hero as a love interest. My heroine was hired as a new secretary at a church where the young pastor was murdered, and her body was found outside of the church. She sees the ghost on her first day in town and she gets drawn into the mystery. Filled with twists and turns the story hooked me from the first line. I finished the book just to see how it would end but with no further expectations.
Mary, my teacher, in the second class had a way of encouraging me while slapping me upside my head. She could criticize my writing and have me laughing at the same time. Now that’s a real gift. I’m glad I listened to her when she encouraged me to query on the finished manuscript. She gave me the name of three publishers and had two that were interested. I chose the one that I’m still with today. I will forever be grateful to her for believing in me and prodding me along the way.
I like my publisher and have had a wonderful experience collaborating with them. My first book was published in 2014 and I’ve had twelve published since with number thirteen going is through the process now. Three of them are award finalists or winners which encouraged me to keep writing once I got brave enough to enter them into writing contests. It’s both exciting and nerve-racking when a new book releases. The same is true with allowing others to read and judge my work.
Even though my books are fantasy fiction I have a real method for why I author the stories I do. In my own strange way, I answer the question through my heroes what would happen if we were aware of what really transpired in the world we rarely see. In the process I touch upon subjects that are important to me in a hopefully entertaining way. Topics like organ trafficking, human trafficking, and domestic violence to name a few.
I’m no diva when it comes to my work, I’m grateful for any recognition I get, but most of all I’m thankful for the readers who read my books and tell me what they think. I have enjoyed meeting people and talking to them in person and through social media. I love to discuss with readers the why’s of my stories at local book clubs or book shows.
I have more to learn about my craft and about marketing, but when all is said and done, writing has allowed me to find another way to be who I am. I lose myself in the story and I find myself there too. Small pieces of myself and who I’m still becoming spill out through the words on the page, or as I like to think of it as my happy place. I’m not sure what that says about me. I invite you to read one of my Blue Cove Mysteries and see for yourself why Blue Cove is a special and unusual place.
1. Mike has a military background and is a student of American history and the Old West.
2, His debut western mystery, The Reckoning, set in South Park, Colorado in 1868, was released in 2016 by The Wild Rose Press. The sequel,
3.The Renewal, also in South Park, 1872, was released in 2018. His third western,
4. A Score To Settle, was released October 2020, also from The Wild Rose Press.
5. White Sands Gold is his latest western mystery and was just released by Wild Rose.
6. He has a coming-of-age novel, Fireflies At Dusk, set during the Civil War, and his short story, The Trade, a tale of the Yukon Gold Rush, was his first published work in 2014.
7.Mike’s written for magazines and newspapers for many years. An experienced editor, he’s taught University-level English and Journalism.
If you like to read Westerns, check out Mike’s latest book, ‘White Sands Gold’.
In a hidden cavern, a fortune in gold bars sits alongside an ancient relic.
To find her treasure-hunting brother, Lottie Durham enlists the help of an easygoing lawman who she can’t stand-at first. When a mysterious woman known only as Ma asks her to join the relic’s guardians, Lottie’s world spins. Why her, and should she take on this solemn obligation?
Twill, leader of the secretive guardians, has sworn a vow to protect the centuries-old religious relic. Regrets bedevil him and his dedication to his oath is repeatedly tested. If he breaks his promise, he’ll fail Ma, the one person he’s never wanted to let down.
Will a looming raid by a band of determined killers be the end of the guardians, the gold, and the relic?
Here’s a sample of what you’ll read in ‘White Sands Gold’.
‘Lottie lowered to the damp ground, which brought the deputy down as well. She fought the urge to look his way. She was alone in the desert wrapped in a semi-bear hug with a man she met yesterday. She eased a hand to her holster and picked the leather loop off her hammer. Probably didn’t need a gun to protect against someone who’d already saved her life, but…in case he tried something.
The deputy snugged his hat lower and shut his eyes.
“Hold on, cowboy. We can’t be sittin’ here just sleepin’. I mean…you oughta be talkin’ to me, reassurin’ me. How about it?”
He two-fingered his hat up a touch. “You seem to be able to take care of yourself fair, you should probably be reassurin’ me.” He glanced sideways at her, his face not more than a few inches away.
That same half-smile that had been so irritating somehow didn’t look so annoying anymore.”
“FAST FACTS” is a fun way to get to know some of my favorite (and some new-to-me) authors. Today, let’s get to know Author Iona Morrison! Here are Iona’s 10 fast facts:
1. I started writing later in life. I attended an online writing class through the University of Connecticut and discovered I like writing fiction.
2. The idea for my first book came from a custodian my first day on the job. She told me they had a church ghost, and my imagination took off.
3. I never read the genre I write, which is a romantic mystery with a touch of paranormal.
4. I have ten books published, with book eleven coming October 10, this year and two novellas.
5. I have seen a working bloodhound track while doing research for my books.
6. I love the process of watching a story come together from beginning to end. Especially the editing process where the story gets polished
.7. Three of my books were winners or finalists in the three award contests I entered. Each of my books have finished in the top ten in a reader’s poll.
8. Meeting and talking with the people who read my books is the best part of the job. I appreciate each of them. Marketing, on the other hand, is the hard part for me. It’s easier to author the book than market it. But I plug away at it.
9. I never know when a new idea will pop up and the next book will start. I am finishing my twelfth book now.
10. I still feel excitement when I hold one of my books in my hands. I find it hard to believe that I’ve written them. Truth is the feeling never gets old.
I’m a pantster. (I don’t know if pantster is even a word, but it describes me. I fly by the seat of my pants.) I can see in my mind all you wonderfully organized folks out their shaking your heads in dismay, and rightfully so. But may I just say in my defense I’ve been like this all my life, and it seems to work for me.
I’ve raised three boys and never lost one. Okay, there was one time in Phoenix that one of them got away from me into an elevator, but his cries soon led me to him. Every time the elevator doors opened i could hear him. I also managed to speak publicly for many years without totally embarrassing myself, and I even have a clean house with laundry folded right out of the dryer. I’ve traveled, managed an office, was a bookkeeper, (with books that balanced) and have written ten novels. Whatever you call my style it works for me.
Although, I’m impressed with and in awe of people who plan out every step of their project; those who know what they are going to create from the beginning all the way to the end; organized before they start. I’ve attempted to do the same, but oh how quickly I stray from the path. I don’t just stray, I color outside the lines, and go a completely different direction, I can’t tell you how many wonderful, amazing planners I’ve bought over the years and never used one of them past the first week. And yet, I somehow planned many social events including a major city- wide one. My claim to fame is the bright, neon sticky note.
I’m a pants-ter. Maybe I should have been a hippie because I tend go with the flow or it’s because I’m married to an old hippie. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Life can get a little chaotic at times, but hey I don’t need therapy for deviating from my lists. Yep, you’ve got it, I’m a pantster and a sticky note queen. The key is to stick them in places that make sense to me and that’s another story.
I am proof that it’s never too late to change course and find a new avenue for life. After circumstances changed in our lives during the last recession, I found myself scrambling to reinvent myself. I stumbled upon a writing class through the University of Connecticut where I lost myself in writing and found myself there too.
Even though my books are fantasy fiction I have a real method for why I write the stories I do. In my own strange way, I answer the question through my heroines what would happen if we were aware of what really is happening around us. In the process I touch upon subjects that are important to me in a hopefully entertaining way.
When I’m tempted to believe I haven’t accomplished anything I remember a few things and it brings a smile to my face. Today was a time for me to pause and reflect. I have eleven books and one novella published. Each one accomplished later in my life. All of them have finished in the top ten in the Critters Readers Poll. Key To The Past, and As The Page Turns were both finalists in the CAL Awards in 2021 and 2022 respectfully. Searching For Closure, won a Book Excellence Award, was a CAL Award Winner this year and received a Firebird Book Award. I’ve made the Amazon Best Seller List which is a short window in time.
I’m no diva when it comes to my work, I’m grateful for any recognition I get, but most of all I’m thankful for you the readers who read them and tell me what you think. I have enjoyed meeting you and talking to you in person and through social media.
I have lots of room to grow, especially in the area of commas and showing and not telling. I may have more to learn about my craft and about marketing, but when all is said and done, writing has allowed me to find another way to be who I am even after life threw me a curve.
When I was younger, I didn’t pay attention to the stories my grandparents and parents shared about family, but the older I get the more I wished I had. I’ve come to appreciate all the generations of people who came together to make me who I am. Reading this chart on Ancestral Mathematics was a great reminder.
Not only did it get me thinking about my immediate family but about those who are nameless to me. I started looking through some old photos, which I love to do. I wish I knew all the stories behind the pictures.
The conclusion that I came to was that a lot of people are part of my story. It’s a bit mind bending.
The next part gets a bit trickier with eight great-grand parents. I have photos of two and several great aunts. I’ve learned my great grandfather on my dad’s side owned a large ranch in Texas. The rest of those numbers are names only for me.
No matter how I look at it I didn’t just happen. A lot of unique individuals went into the possibility for me to exist. And just because I love old photos here are few more of family and those I love.
My mom and dad as kids.
My great grandfather, his wife and two daughters and son who is the baby. He was my dad’s father. I think you get the general idea.
Which brings me to me, my siblings, and the math goes on.
Seniors in high school and yet to meet.
You’ve got to love the magic of life. We are all connected and not as different as we like to think. In a world that often can be mean kindness matters and love wins.